How to Create a Comfortable Workplace Setup

February 16, 2017

It’s a big weekend for BambooHR: we’re moving into a new office space starting tomorrow. We’ve grown a lot in the past few months, so we’re all looking forward to more elbow room and break room refrigerator real estate in our new workplace setup.

As an HR representative, it’s your responsibility to ensure your employees are comfortable in their workspace. While much of this revolves around making employees feel valued, safe, and welcome, there’s a large physical component that goes into a great working environment. Here are some of these physical elements when creating your workplace with a great experience in mind:

Information vs. Imitation

As with many other decisions, it’s better to trust evaluation over emulation. Just because you see an awesome office on Pinterest with LEGO sculptures, a ball pit, and a model railway food service doesn’t mean that the same setup will work best for your organization.

As you plan your new workplace setup, get feedback from each of your teams, then fit their requests into your space and budget constraints. You might not be able to give everyone everything they want, but you’ll cover what’s most important, even if it’s not Pinterest perfect.

Mood (and Performance) Lighting

If your office has a creative department, walk in and take a look at their fluorescent lighting. I’m willing to bet good money that they’ve unscrewed at least half of the tubes if they haven’t turned off the lighting altogether. It turns out that glare on a computer monitor makes it hard to correct colors, and small differences in color lead to big departures from the brand.

While a customer support representative might long for sunshine and expansive views, a developer might prefer to work in the dark center of the building (with the lights off for good measure). Interviewing your managers will give you a good idea of the right light levels for each team, so you’re not basing your plans on what you heard from the one developer who secretly wants to be Batman.

Shared or Separate?

One of the biggest challenges with setting up a workspace is getting the right balance of collaboration and concentration. Physical space affects mental space. If you’ve ever had someone hovering over your shoulder watching you type or read, you know what I’m talking about.   

The classic office environment tends to separate employees with cubicle walls, or packs them into spaces. More modern offices remove these barriers and create open floor plans, where everyone can see everyone, conversations (and Nerf darts) fly freely, and a shared flavor develops.  

Should you create a shared office or separate spaces? Open offices promote friendship and collaboration. But for focus-intensive positions like programming, private space means fewer distractions and more productivity. You’ll also need secure and private office space for sensitive HR and financial records.

Get Comfortable

You can create the most physical comfort for your employees when you provide the right kinds of tools and encourage healthy habits.

Many employees work at a desk for multiple hours each day, and they often end up in a position that ergonomic specialists call the turtle: hunched over, arms extended, neck raised to see their screen. This leads to back strain, shoulder strain, neck strain, and more, with all their accompanying medical costs and insurance charges.

A couple of simple changes can make all the difference: positioning your computer monitor so that the top is one or two inches above your eye level helps you keep your neck elevated, and keeping your forearms and hands on your desktop takes the strain off your wrists and shoulder.

Ergonomics experts recommend mixing periods of standing and sitting. (On a personal note, thanks Bamboo for the awesome new standing desks!) But even if your budget assumes that your new workplace setup will include used cubicle furniture from 1996, encouraging your employees to stand up at least once every half hour will help.


Making a comfortable workplace helps improve employee health and increase employee performance and engagement. Here’s hoping that your careful research can give your organization the right workplace setup to keep on growing and improving.

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Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson expertly decodes all things HR, drawing on a decade of technical writing in the business organization industry to provide editorial support to internal and external learning programs at BambooHR. His writing explores the different motivations that shape the employee experience and the psychology of human resources.